Patio gardens provide many with an outdoor living space

TRUE PATIOS: Roofless inner living spaces in the centre of Spanish houses.

FOR more than two millennia patio gardens have been popular in Spain and other Mediterranean countries and continue to be so today. For many persons living in the historic centres of towns and villages, patio gardens are the only outdoor living space they have.
True patios are roofless inner living spaces in the centre of traditional style Spanish and Spanish-American houses. However, although not everyone will have the real thing the design ideas that follow can be used to create patio style terraces, courtyards and yards in any size and location of property.
Some ingredients for successful patio gardens:
• A clear vision and purpose – My choice is to develop patios as an intimate centre of family life.

• Shade – Natural shade being better than canvas sails or awnings. Trees are typically planted in the centre or in one or more corners.
Popular trees include palms, cordylines, rubber trees, figs, olives, jacaranda, citrus, judas and trained galan de noche.
Climbers over wires and beams are also used including roses, grapevines, bignonias and passion flowers.
However, if your patio becomes an oven in July or August a motorised awning may be essential to provide shade.

• Colourful and perfumed walls – Using a combination of trailing plants such as petunias and geraniums in window boxes and climbers such as jasmine, passion flower, honeysuckle, clematis, plumbago, roses and bougainvillaeas in containers or planted directly in the ground.
Plants can be supplemented by displaying plates, plaques and memorabilia.

• Cool evergreen plants ­­– In shady corners not reached even by the high midday sun beaming down into deep patios.
Plants often are ferns, aspidistras, spider plants, pothos, mother-in-law’s tongue, bread plants, spathiphyllum, succulents, bamboos and bonsais of various types.

• Collections of flowering plants in containers – Bulbs such as clivias, cyclamens, amaryllis, freesias, irises, lilies, talbagias and agapanthas.
• Containers for growing a small collection of herbs, fruit and vegetables – Provided there is sufficient light. See Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain and Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style.
• Soft music – Light music of your choice for relaxing. The sound of water – for instance fountains in the centre of ponds, or stand alone. These days there are also numerous types of small water features available.
• Small pets – Small birds, fish and terrapins are possible.
• Comfortable and stylish furniture – Chosen to match the style of the overall patio design. Iron, wood, wicker, bamboo, plastic are all possible. Perhaps swing seats and sky chairs. Screens and large plants can create private corners.
• Interesting artifacts. My first choice would be a collection of ceramic pots or agricultural implements.
• Subtle lighting. Perhaps a mix of spots, wall lights and standard lamps designed for external use.

Hope these ideas and observations help readers design and construct somewhere very special for the family and friends.
(c) Dick Handscombe
May 2015

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